Beyond the Pane IV (Ruffo and Keith)

Morning comes too early. It seems my eyes are never ready for the sun when it rises. I think sometimes that it is old age trying to gets it’s shots in early. After getting the boys off to school I set into a day of things to do not enough time in the day to do them. I take out the trash and started to break down boxes I had emptied the day before. I was determined that I was going to unpack everything before the week was up “this is finally home”

Caught in the bottom flap of one of the boxes fell a postcard, I almost threw it away, but guilt of disregarding a memory I had at least once in my life thought valuable enough to keep. I picked it out of the trash can and started to read. “Oh my God! It is Ruffo!”

I met Ruffo at the Fall Festival, the week of my 17th birthday. He was a Carney and I was hanging out with my two older sisters. Although I liked him it was a sister moment and they were busy teaching me how to flirt and pick up men. I stayed away from the thought of a boyfriend for the past year and I really wasn’t looking for a boyfriend now. I was just having fun. Poor Ruffo didn’t have a chance.

I showed some interest in him and a few other workers, they were dirty and loud. They were not from around our area so they were just exotic enough that I was a little more interested than I thought I would be. But Ruffo was just a little cuter, just a little more shy then the rest. He gave my sisters and I free rides and I came back every day to spend time with him, even brought him lunch one day and he asked off early to spend the rest of the evening with me.

I asked him where he was staying and the other carneys overheard our conversation and started to tease him why he would just take me back to the hotel they all shared. He got angry and pulled me away, “I don’t want you around the other guys, Debby, they aren’t good people”

Ruffo and I spent a great week together. I liked him, but I cannot say I loved him. Even our kisses were lacking a passion. He felt a little more involved than I did though and when the week was up and the troop were going to move on to the next city he told me he was going back to Chicago and was going to get a real job and send for me. Now here was my thought even at 17, sure it would be nice to live away from home, he was a good guy and he was cute maybe the love part would grow, and I was 17 and still I remember all the dreams of future and plans told by others that fell apart.     What made this story any different than the others?

After a year of talking on the phone and posts I lost interest, I was done dreaming and talking about love and a life together, I ended up giving into the real world. My 18th birthday ushered in a new experience. I was introduced to Keith. At the end of the week, my friend arranged a date on my 18th birthday, my friend had been dating Keith’s brother , He was a very attractive man,25 years old, Light colored black, once a male stripper and spent some time in the military. I was very pleased to be out with such a secure, respectful and lets face it (well built man).

He was no doubt experienced in more than stripping.He kept his hands on me all evening and when he asked for me to come in his house… well I just followed. He made it quite clear that he was interested in more than fondling. I had never really done more in the past. Ben had showed me other ways to please than actual intercourse.

I do not quite know what I had wanted from the evening, but I knew that I didn’t want to be raped. When it started to become uncomfortable, his bites and pushing, holding to tight. He was rushed and angry, tearing at my cloths “Relax” he whispered as he continued to pull at my pants. “I am a virgin!” I yelled and he did stop. He sat up and lit a cigarette and smiled at me, “Why didn’t you say so? I will be gentle with you. I have had lots of virgins” When I tried to put my cloths back on he stopped me, and started kissing me again this time slower, softer. I started to get uncomfortable the closer he came to penetrating me and I became stiff. “Don’t be a child!” he held tight to my wrists.

With one arm trapped behind my back and the other pinched between my stomach and a bent knee, now pressed against my chest, I was unable to put up much of a fight. He held his hand over my mouth to muffle the screams and the other hand held my leg in place as his weight kept me down.

My head banged on the wall with every thrust and tears ran down my long blonde hair. He whispered in my ear as the sex became natural and erythematic. “See you just needed someone to take it from you. Now doesn’t that feel good?”  I finally just relaxed and watched him staring at me. The breaths he took with every painful throw and I watched the faces he made just as he was getting ready to cum. “Yeah Yeah Yeah, feel it?” The damage had already been done.

The weird thing is I wasn’t sure if I was mad at him, I wondered if he was right and would I have just stayed a virgin my whole life because I was afraid of going farther. I remember returning back to his a place a week later, wanting more, wanting to learn more. I started visiting Keith for regular lessons. He opened up a little to me and told me about a few stories of his life but it was not a real bonding experience. In fact I liked that I was able to learn and be with a man and not have to worry about expectations or labels. There were literally no emotions.

It felt like bushing my hair… slightly painful but necessary and in the end very satisfying and I always walked away from his place feeling better about myself. I felt like I was learning to be a better lover, a better woman.

At the same time I was still writing and calling Ruffo. Even though I still felt a connection with my dreamer it didn’t feel real. I couldn’t touch him and I wasn’t able to see that far into the future like he could. I finally explained to him the torture I felt when I talked to him, the uncertainty of our relationship. I suggested that he stop calling, writing and only contact me when he was ready to send for me.

I hold the post card in hand now, seemed odd. I called information in Chicago and although the phone number was unlisted the address was the same. I am not sure what I wanted, but as I wrote the letter the words just seem to flow out. Apologizing for leaving him, for forgetting him, and telling him how my life had turned out so far.  I hoped he was well and that he married and had tons of children. I put my phone number and waited to see if that was indeed the Ruffo I knew so long ago.
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Beyond the Pane III (Ben)

It is funny how the mind works. I could be doing something as simple as cooking a meal or doing the dishes and all of the sudden memories of a lifetime ago come flooding in like it was only moments ago. My days are full of flashbacks, and no way to escape those tortures of wrong turns and eternal dead ends. I made some terrible mistakes and lived scripts from horror movies because of them. I have also loved so deeply that at this point in my life I know that there is no way I could best those memories. The next story will be one of those memories.

It came so innocent, getting my now 7 yr. old twins sons ready for bed; they always had a tendency to get a little rough at the end of the night. They try their hardest to fight sleep. “Mom, Anthony messed my bed up. Can you fix it?” I did my normal fussing but not as much as I could have. I have been though an emotional time, strengthening myself as a single woman now, being a mother, going to school. I was tired. I noticed that the bed wasn’t just messed up “What happened in here, Wrestle mania?” I started; strip the bed while the boys reluctantly picked up the toys and put away their things. Arron jumped in front of me and said,” that’s good, Mom. I don’t need a sheet. I’ll sleep like that.” No, I do not think so. I finished making the beds as I remembered another time in my life.

I can’t say that my sister and I didn’t get along. There was a time in my life that we were inseparable, in a lot of ways we were like twins, although she was older and more time than not she treated me like I was her personal assistant. When I was 15, Mary had already been out on dates, had true love affairs and found herself “experienced” when it came to men. I was not so much so interested in learning about sex I still was afraid of getting my feelings hurt again.

One of the things my sister liked to do was go to the victory, an under 21 dance club/entertainment in Evansville, a half an hour away from our small town. It was an all-nighter this night; Parents would drop off their teens and forget them until morning. My mother didn’t trust Mary, and told her if she wanted to stay out all night she would have to take me. I hated to dance, didn’t have friends that ever went. To tell the truth I was a little frightened, I had heard stories of what girls did in the giant buildings dark movie theaters, drugs and drinking even fights. I knew this was not going to be good.

I hadn’t known Mary was going to leave soon after we got there; her plan was to go with her boyfriend and be back before morning. I sat at a table off to the side, slightly in the dark. I was ticked that my sister left me, and that I had the whole night to feel alone.  I noticed a table of laughing Middle Eastern men not too far from me. I didn’t understand what they were saying, and that alone made me feel very uncomfortable. I also noticed that they were older then what was allowed. I could tell that most the group was closer to 27 to 30. I knew this from being around so many Asians (short doesn’t mean young)

I tried to ignore them, but as the evening went on I couldn’t help but notice that they spent a great deal of time teasing the youngest and shortest of the group, he seemed to look over at me when the others were having the most fun at his expense. I started getting tired and tipped my chair back against the wall, watching the kids dancing and talking all around. This was going to be a long night.

Out of nowhere the younger man in the group was standing at my table” Would you like to dance?” I shook my head no. His head dropped as the others at the table started laughing. Angry that a so called group of friends could be so mean, I jumped up and caught him before he got back to his table, put my hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear “I do not dance but you can keep me company”. The words seem to float off my tongue and you could tell from his excitement that he must have really been interested in me. Of course I also love the fact that his friends now sat so surprised with mouths hanging open in disbelief.

Ben was amazing, he hung on my every word, smiled like I was the reason he lived and he was by far the most gorgeous man I had ever seen, but he didn’t know he was handsome in fact he blushed every time I said I just liked looking at him. We sat there most the night, talking about everything, laughing and I dare say I knew more about that man and my own feelings in a few hours then I could have ever learned about Ta in all the months I knew him.

When his friends wanted to leave he said for them to go without him and that he will walk, but since he was new to the city, they simple said that they would return later after 2 hours.  We continued our conversations, as he wrapped his arm around me. And as the time flew he kept looking at his watch. “If I am boring you, you can leave,” he laughed and held me tighter “No, you could never bore me, I look at my watch disappointed that I am losing time” I understood what he was saying; I didn’t want the night to end either. Ben and I talked about everything, walked around the building, and made our way to the movie theater where we (didn’t) watch a movie. Kissing and holding, touching; but not at all in a sexual way, it was more like lost loves reuniting. We were holding each other like we were to be torn apart soon when I had fallen asleep in his arms. As I woke, I looked up at him. I was shocked. Above me was a beautiful man, long hair, bronze shin and the loveliest eyes I had ever seen. He was like art. “She lives” I apologized but he would have none of that “I have never seen a more beautiful sleep”

I was sold. Better yet, I was in love. When his friends came back, so did my sister. She was so pleased that I had found someone that she suggested that I leave with him, and she said it right in front of them all. There was no way for either of us to tell the other no. He had his peer pressure and I had mine.

We went back to his friend’s apartment and they pushed us both in a bedroom and shut the door, laughing. We stared at each other for a minute, not quite knowing what to say, or what to do. Our conversation never really got to whether or not either one of us was expecting to have sex. “We do not have to do anything” he said with his eyes looking at the floor. I looked over at an unmade bed with no sheets “we could sit down” We talked until the laughing from the other room stopped. He started to kiss my hand like every foreign movie I had ever seen. He kissed up my arm to my neck, obviously he had done this before but I was too embarrassed to tell him I hadn’t, in fact I was too scared to say a lot of things or to even breathe.

The scratch of the mattress without a sheet was one of the many things I felt that night. I felt his hands on every inch of me, and a very knowledgeable tongue that was very skilled. But when he slid on top of me and we were face to face, he noticed I was crying. “Is this tears of joy, do I make you happy?” I looked away, half afraid if I spoke I would start balling or that the words I would say would make him stop. Deep inside I didn’t want him to stop. I wanted to get it over with; I wanted to stop being afraid of losing my virginity. I wanted to be a woman. For some people it might seem a little early, but I had always been in touch with my emotions, I didn’t really think like a child at 15, I never was treated like a child in public because of my adult looks. The subject of my age never came up our conversations either.

Reluctantly I said, “I am a virgin” He held me closer “Why didn’t you say so my love, I think it is great that you save yourself” I looked at him puzzled; he really didn’t know I was young. “Ben I am only 15” I wouldn’t have thought a person could move so fast. Apparently when the students come from other countries they are taught what was permitted and what will get them deported.  Getting dressed in record speed, pacing the room like a mad man and rambling in more than a few languages, he plopped back down on the bed, looked into my eyes and said “I am so sorry. I thought you were older” I held his hand “Ben, you didn’t look that old. I knew you friends looked older but you?” he told me he just turned 21 last month. And he was going to college IU in Bloomington.

What to do? I mean it was awkward for us but all I could say was “I am still the girl you have spent all night with and you are still the man that I have falling in love with, what difference does it make that I am a little young. Did you think I was a child when you kissed me?” I could see in his eyes that he saw me in a different light. “No sex, though” he said with a smile, and I accepted.

My family loved Ben and his friends, They never worried about his religion or his age, My mother’s only request was that “Keep her a virgin and We will sign for you to marry when she turns 16”  so he would spend his week at Bloomington going to school and then spend the weekends with me. A few times even spend the night in the guest room. All was so wonderful. I felt like nothing could go wrong. We picked out wedding rings and put them on lay-away because even though his family was rich they had not sent his allowance yet. He was going to school to learn business management so he could help with his families many holdings.

I felt like we spent a life time together, My only thought was of making him happy, I wrote poems and learned to cook for him. When he came to visit we did everything together, he even took me to some of my school functions, even farm chores were shared with playful adoration and laughter of course. Walks in the woods were romantic and bonding. My whole life was happier. It had purpose

Ben’s friends had started to get a little jealous that he no longer spent time with them and when it was mentioned to a family friend that Ben had found an American girl to marry. He received a message from his Parents that he needed to return home immediately. He told me it was going to only be for the summer. I felt uneasy but I had faith that all was going to be fine “It is only one summer” I remembered Ta’s summer away and knew that I would make sure never to let my thoughts wonder from Ben.

I never saw Ben again; I got a letter or two, telling me that everything was fine. He said he would be back to school the next semester and that I would be the first person he would come and see. He never was allowed back. After a year of wondering, being crazed, and depressed, almost begging for death, I saw one of his friends. “Are you ok? You hear about Ben?” I told him that I had not heard anything from Ben in almost a year. “You still love him, Deborah?” I thought for a second… Did I still love him? Don’t get me wrong I did love him, if he stood before me that very moment I would have not been contained but it had just been long enough, just painful enough that what I felt for him before had been replaced with Abandonment, self-doubt and hatred. If he was still alive I wanted to know “WHY?” so I lied and said “No… what happened?”

The man told me a story about how his family held money over his head, they forced him to marry a woman of their choosing and that he had no choice. Without his families money he could have never returned to America and marry a “Christian whore”.  He was too ashamed and couldn’t explain to me in a letter that he was never coming back so he just disappeared. His friend was even told to not tell me anything until I was over him.

I grew up in a town and around friends that were all white, predigest, there were no exceptions and yet it was my family that openly defied the norm and teaches me to be open minded and that all people are the same. I never saw that he was Muslim, foreign, different color or even his size. I loved Ben for his words and his heart so why would I be judged for what I was? Even now as I write this I cannot help but cry uncontrollably.

I have had a lot of years to think about Ben, weather I would have done the same thing in his place. Back then I would have, but today I realize how hard it is to find a love like that. How when you close your eyes all you see is them, or the chills that run down your soul when you hear their voice.  I do not think I will ever feel that for someone again and It is a shame that I would have been introduced to such a deep love at too early of an age to chase after it. Now I live my whole life trying to feel that way again.
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Beyond the Pane II (James and Ta)

Time passes quickly. Memories lay stacked on the bedroom floor in chronological order. I had spent the past two days separating my things from his. 10 years was a long time to involve myself with someone. The rest will just have to wait. It was super time as the boys asked what I was going to fix. “Meat strips and rice” one of their favorites and the first meal I was taught to cook.

I used to spend weekends during the summer with my grandmother in the larger City close to us. Although I would watch the older women in my family cook, I was always the youngest girl in the kitchen and the most I was allowed to do was stay out of their way and maybe I would get to butter and pan or wash dishes. I used to spend most of the visits sitting on the front porch watching the neighborhood.

A new family moved across the street from my grandmother, a Vietnamese family. It was a big house but I was sure that every room must have been full. I never saw so many people living in one house before. I watched as the children played in the cherry tree and I wished that I could find a way to introduce myself without looking nosey. I was 13 and at 5foot nine inches I was often mistaken for an adult, I was awkward and shy. My sisters had been showing me how to on put makeup and this was one of the days that I was trying on my “all grown up look”.

I noticed one of the older guys raising up a very small child over his head to pick a branch of cherry blossoms and then said something in her ear as he lowered her to the ground. She skipped across the street towards me and said “my Uncle wanted you to have these” I smiled and thanked her: I asked her name and what her uncle’s name was. “Why don’t you come over and I will tell you everyone’s names?”

Twee was so cute. How could I resist such a sweet, bubbly little china doll? She pulled me across the street and I was introduced to the whole family, the uncle and most of the children knew English very well. But the older members had some difficulty talking with me so the Uncle made sure he was always close by just in case I needed a translator.

I would go and visit my grandmother’s house more often. I spent most of my summer helping them with chores, becoming fast friends with the women, learning how to cook their foods and teaching the older ones English. In the process I also was taught quite a bit of Vietnamese. One of the first phrases I learnt “An Eyo Am” I love you.

The Uncle, James was my first boyfriend and my first kiss; the friendship was very innocent and short lived. My sister had found out that James had lied about his age. He was 27 and although my parents disapproved of me spending even chaperoned time with a man his age, they didn’t have much problem with Mary who was just a few years older going out on dates with him. I still do not know how it happened, he called crying that he missed me and please at least talk with him, I handed the phone to my sister so she could console him and the next thing I knew they were dating and then engaged.

My only real revenge was the fact that she was to never be alone with him, so it was decided that if they wanted to go on dates I had to accompany them. I was a cruel and vindictive chaperone. In order to have their privacy away from my evil glares, they introduced me to Ta a much younger and cuter version of his Uncle, Ta was quiet, artistic and liked me but thought I was not Vietnamese enough, his thoughts on having a respectful, obedient wife caused a few arguments.

I was in love with idea of falling in love, I don’t think it was so much that I loved everything about him, I know I didn’t. I did what I was told so I would be loved, I was rewarded with kisses and a sense of belonging. My family loved them all. They would all take turns coming out to the country and groups would spend the night. The children felt like little brothers and sisters. One summer Ta was supposed to go to Texas to help another family on their fishing boat. I was devastated.

“What am I supposed to do while you are gone?” He told me whatever it is, it had better be with him in mind. He chose to not take a chance and had one of his cousins keep an eye on me. I had known Lee as long as I knew Ta. He was a very little man, cute but tiny. Grandmother used to say he was so cute she could hang him on her wall and that the wall would probably hold him.

I hadn’t really noticed him. I was too busy being the good little housewife in training to notice any other man in the family. Lee did keep a good eye on me, a good hand on me to. Those little hands moved fast and I fended him off regularly. I spent many a day trying to explain to him that he was attractive and that if I were not in love with Ta, he would be a good choice for a boyfriend. The mistake I made was innocent. In the process of trying to keep from hurting the guy’s feelings I must have given him hope.

When Ta came back, Lee told him that I had been the one chasing him and that I had made plains to be with Lee. Ta was unforgiving in his punishment of me. He wouldn’t accept any explanations. He refused to hear a word I said or when I tried to get the women to relay messages. Lee was ever so willing to console me though, putting thoughts in my head that if Ta really loved me he would have listened and not been jealous “Go away you evil little man!”

I tried to be friends with a few of the others after that and it just didn’t feel the same. I always felt like the men were trying to see who would get my attention next. I was a toy being handed around from friend to friend, played with and then disregarded when they were bored “Next!”

I enjoyed spending time with the family and it was a shame that all I received from my time with the Vietnamese family was a few useless words that only reminded me of heartbreak, and some cool recipes. “Dinner is ready”
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Beyond the Pane (beginning of my true story)

My African friend called my cell just as I walked through the door, and feeling little freer than usual, I decided to talk and not let the fact that Melvin was in the other room stop me. She got me laughing as usual and I was glad to hear the things she was telling me. One of her friends was interested in me. It was fun and a boost to my ego. I loved flirting with idea of being with someone again, being wanted, even loving again.

“You are kidding me! Really? And you know this because…?” The phone flew across the room and what was a giddy smile now caused pain as I spit blood.

I hadn’t seen him coming at me. I definitely couldn’t have stopped him. I stared wide-eyed as I held my bleeding mouth. Pure and utter shock is the only way that I can describe the emotion I felt. All the 10 years that Melvin and I had been together he knew never to put his hands on me. He knew that was the one thing that I would never let happen to me again, at least not without a fight. I assume that he had always wanted to hit me during arguments in the past, but seemed to always get up enough control to take a walk or punch a wall.

Perhaps he knew that was something that I would never forgive and he just didn’t want to test that fact. Now that there is nothing to lose, why would he try to stop himself? I was never going to take him back, and it’s possible he did not really want to be back in my good graces. He knew as long as I needed him to babysit he would always see his kids, even my tolerance of all his mood swings, all the painful words and heartless behaviors could not add up to the act of crossing that one unforgivable barrier of touching me. Maybe he thought I was bluffing when I told him I would kill the next man that hit me, maybe he thought his presence was more valuable than my self esteem.

Whatever the reason it was too late now. With my son holding me back I tried my hardest to get a hold of that Bastard and God save us all if I did. “I know you didn’t just put your hands on me!” Frustrated that my sixteen year old would not let me beat the man that he himself would have loved the chance to pummel, I sat down to hear Melvin’s never ending line of shit. “Don’t even act like I hit you, I didn’t touch you, I grabbed the phone and you hit yourself.” I was getting ready to be held back again, but I turned around and picked up an antique wood box off my coffee table and chucked it across the living room and hit “stupid” right in his head. Jewelry tossed around the room as the box broke into pieces on the floor, I yelled back at him “And it was the wind that blew that at your head”

I picked up the phone to see if it still worked, about the same time as it began ringing. It was my friend. “Sorry about that, Dumb ass just got more stupid.” She was very concerned about my situation, even more so than myself. I have been through it before, many times before. She had lived a kind of sheltered life.

“I am going to keep you on the phone and if we get disconnected again, you know my address. Call the police!” I made sure that Melvin heard me. It has been my experience that Abusers don’t like witnesses.

I hadn’t cried this whole year. Never once did I feel sorry for myself or wonder in the darkness why I wasn’t able to be loved. In the past those thoughts would have kept me up at night crying and haunt my every thought, but I am much older and wiser than that lovesick teenager set on being the next Juliet. No, I had let my emotions guild me up to this point and look where it has gotten me. There was no way I was going to let my emotion have tonight.

When I did let those tears fall, they came with more than the embarrassment of being weak, but with a strength that I had not felt in what seemed forever. As I stared at him through tears “I think you just started something that I will have to get someone else to finish” I called the police and got that lazy, good for nothing, unfaithful, trifling controlling bastard escorted out of my house and out of my life. I had tried for over a year to get him to save up enough money to get his own place and he always had some kind of excuse as to what bill took his money or that his children needed him.

It all came down to the fact that he blew his money on women, chat lines and cell phones.

I had tried to keep him off the streets and out of the shelters. He tried his hardest to not only keep that free ride we were giving him but to make it as painful as possible for me in the process. He threatened me, my job, getting me kicked off of welfare and put me out on the streets. So I got off of welfare and housing assistance, got a different job and bucked up for what was sure to be a good fight for freedom.

Remember the saying do not throw stones if you live in a glass house? I made sure my house was made of reinforced steel. I was so busy getting my affaires together that I couldn’t see “D-days” fast approach. I had thought the only way I was going to get rid of my unwanted houseguest was to get him evicted. I was saving for those court costs when he decided to blow past those legalities this night.

Now that he is gone, I sit in the darkness and have time to think, “Damn, I couldn’t have planned it any better” I touch at my busted lip and decide “Minimal amount of damage, maximum amount results. Cool. Melvin less”

I didn’t sleep well that night or many nights after. I cannot say it was from loneliness, the act of trying to rationalize my behavior was important to me, almost like poking a wound, yes it hurts and there is nothing about that behavior that is beneficial but you just can’t stop yourself from it. The pain is almost enjoyable, I know it sounds insane but when I looked back on those things that really were painful, really depressing I learned to not fear them, it makes me numb to the pain, and in an odd way I build a callas over that part on my emotions. I review my past like the review at the end of a history chapter, making sure I learned well my lesson never to repeat.
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